Nature Net’s monthly blog highlights seasonal topics and helps you feel like the expert. Each edition features tips for educators and families, and links to exciting, nature-focused websites.

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August 2022 – Black Bears
Somehow the topic of bears came up in our house the other day. My daughter said offhandedly "I didn't know there were bears in Wisconsin." I guess it's not surprising given that she's lived her whole life in Madison, where bear sightings are quite rare. But I was somewhat shocked that she didn't realize the American black bear is a native Wisconsin species. The environmental educator in me couldn't help but chime in. Black bears are in fact listed by ...Continue Reading
July 2022 – Moths of Wisconsin
The most extraordinary caterpillar marched its way across my back patio the other day. With spiky hair all around, a bright red head, and four white globules on its back, it caught everyone’s attention as it traversed the blue seat cushion. I pulled up the Seek app on my phone to capture its image and found it was a White-marked tussock moth, which metamorphoses into a fully un-extraordinary adult with drab gray and brown coloration. An amazing transformation indeed. The ...Continue Reading
June 2022 – Climate Education
I recently came across an interesting research article that influenced my thinking on climate change education and the impact we, as educators, may - or may not - be having on people’s understanding of climate change risk. The article was published in 2012 by a collective of researchers from Yale, Ohio State, Temple University, George Washington University, and a nonprofit research consortium in Eugene, Oregon. The team asserts that a commonly held notion about climate education is fundamentally flawed. The ...Continue Reading
May 2022 – Climate Anxiety
Have you ever - like me - stood bewildered in the grocery aisle, trying to make a selection that keeps in mind both the family budget and the environment? When I was in graduate school, the professor for my "Climate Change and Human & Planetary Health" class asked students to track the carbon footprint of our meals for a day. As a born-and-raised Wisconsinite, it was near heartbreaking to learn that cheese has an extremely high carbon footprint (e.g. producing ...Continue Reading
March 2022 – Wolf Conflicts
Just a few weeks ago (February, 2022), a US District court re-listed the gray wolf as a federally endangered species. This pertains to wolves in the lower 48 states, except the northern Rocky Mountain region. I don’t know about your newsfeed, but this transpired with seemingly far less fanfare than the October 2020 announcement that the US Fish & Wildlife would remove the wolf from the Federal Endangered Species list. Particularly since this latter event triggered the opening of a wolf ...Continue Reading
February 2022 – Environmental Justice
Let’s talk about environmental justice - particularly in light of climate change. I first learned of the concept of environmental justice when I was an undergrad in the 1990s at the UW Nelson Institute. At that point, environmental injustices were related primarily to the unequal distribution of pollution, toxic waste, and pesticides. The discussion focused on how people of particular races, classes, and geographic locations - whether by design or lack of design - are more profoundly impacted by the ...Continue Reading
January 2022 – Ice Fishing
On a fairly regular basis, I drive toward downtown Madison along the shores of Lake Monona on John Nolen Drive. On early winter days, my kids and I place odds on when we’ll first see ice shanties pop up on Monona Bay. It seems like a mere skim of ice over the bay sparks fisher-men and -women into action with their augers and tip-ups and quiet patience. Long a tradition in Wisconsin - including several millennia prior to the arrival ...Continue Reading
December 2021 – Evergreens
While the bleak winterscape pales in comparison to the colors other seasons offer, it’s a perfect time to gain a new appreciation for trees that do provide a visual break from white and grey. Though the words “conifer” and “evergreen” are often used interchangeably, not all evergreens are conifers, and not all conifers are evergreen. “Evergreen” is a non-scientific term used to describe plants that maintain their leaves or needles throughout the seasons, whereas “conifers'' are cone-bearing trees or shrubs. ...Continue Reading
November 2021 – Forest Bathing
I had previously heard of “forest bathing” or shinrin-yoku, the Japanese term for taking in the atmosphere of the forest. I first learned of this unique practice when I was contemplating and building a case for the idea that a connection to nature is more than just “tree-hugging,” it’s beneficial to childrens’ health and well-being. But I had never officially - intentionally - partaken in forest bathing. It was amid a casual conversation. A friend who was over for dinner ...Continue Reading
October 2021 – “The Colors”
I took a weekend trip to Door County recently and as I prepared for the journey, several people commented on how nice they expected “the colors” would be. They were, of course, referring to the fall foliage, and indeed the Fall Color Report from Travel Wisconsin noted Door County would be just before peak color that week. When I arrived, true to the data, the sumacs, maples, and ash trees dotted the landscape with red and gold, while the oaks ...Continue Reading